In a society that breeds multi-billion dollar beauty industries and shows like The Bachelor—a society that socializes women to inherently view one another other as competition—any hint of female solidarity is encouraging. So this weekend, when approximately four million people donned hand-knitted pink hats, grabbed their torches and pitchforks and chanted "her body, her choice" in unison, we made one thing abundantly clear: right now, women get to be angry.
Women stand to lose a lot at the (tiny) hands of a Trump Administration; just Monday morning, President Trump reinstated a "Global Gag Rule," which targets women's health organizations all over the world. It's seen as an anti-abortion measure, but the policy denies aid to organizations that provide or even mention abortion as an option—regardless of whether the government is directly funding abortions themselves (which, spoiler alert, it is not).
The gag order will promote maternal deaths, infant mortality, and unsafe procedures. It will prevent women in developing countries from accessing reproductive healthcare. And this was, according to Trump, only day one.
This poisonous cheeto masquerading as a human man has made it abundantly clear that he does not respect women—although, in general, women's rights have never been safe in the hands of the government. Powerful men have been politicizing and demeaning the female body for generations.
Praise for the march was widespread and varied, but one particular form of pride has been lauded above all others: four million marchers in all 50 states and not a single arrest. I can just hear white ladies all over the country sipping their wine in suburban homes and sighing, "MLK would've been proud."
It's important to unpack this sense of pride, this idealization of peaceful protest, because it's thrown around as proof of the participants' virtue. A nonviolent protest doesn't prove anything about the intentions of the protestors, only the mindset of the police officers. As Kristen Hanley Cardozo points out in this series of tweets, "the faces centered by a lot of pre-march publicity were often white women." Despite the women of color who helped organize and execute the march, many of the event's complaints centered around the experiences of white women. And since lighter skin is often conflated with increased innocence and purity, white women benefit in instances of policing.
Here's the thing: we can't talk about feminism without talking about this. The very essence of feminism is the belief in equality, rooted in historical marginalization and aiming to combat its lingering effects. As such, it's important to lift up women since we have been historically marginalized, but not all women suffer equally. While it's true that all women get to be angry, for many women, sexism is not the only struggle; if you're a white, straight, cis woman and you don't support Black Lives Matter or the protestors at Standing Rock or marriage equality, then you are not a feminist. Feminism needs to be intersectional and all-encompassing or it's not feminism at all.
The Women's March on Washington has already been criticized for a lack of inclusion and intersectionality; its original name was called out for appropriating the activism of black women who organized the Million Woman March in 1997. A number of WOC organizers, like Rosie Campos in Pennsylvania and Charity Avé-Lallemant in Maryland, decided to step down before the march because they didn't feel as though their voices were being heard. Many WOC who have pointed these problems out have been called "divisive" or "dramatic."
Erasure and dismissal of marginalized voices is symptomatic of white supremacy; these are silencing tactics, designed to keep the racial hierarchy intact.
"White feminism" is not feminism at all, of course, but it has a long history of destruction. Susan B. Anthony argued that the suffrage of white women was more important than the rights of any black person. Alice Paul did not advocate for integration and asked black women to walk behind the white women during the Women's Suffrage Parade in 1913: "As far as I can see, we must have a white procession, or a Negro procession, or no procession at all," she wrote.
The Woman's March on Washington was a historic event. It should be a source of motivation and comfort for many of us who fear the next four years. And its strides towards inclusion should be admired; I was especially encouraged that Boston's speakers included women like Leslie Jonas, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Kanisha Hans, a queer woman of color and volunteer for Planned Parenthood, and Tanisha M. Sullivan, the President of Boston's NAACP. I am glad to know that Gloria Steinem, who spoke at the D.C. march, declared, "There is no such thing as freedom for any woman as long as racism wins."
But we should not use the march's nonviolent success as a foundation of false righteousness. Nonviolence is preferable, but since activists operate within an oppressive system, outrage should not be demonized. Anger in the face of injustice is reasonable. And feminists have a long road ahead: white women need to show up, consistently and powerfully, outside of their own self-serving agendas. As we fight for our reproductive rights, which are always important, we must also remember that race privilege cannot continue to be prioritized.
"Pussy Grabs Back" signs and pink hats are all in good fun and good intent. But if the march truly represented solidarity and female empowerment, women of color need to be prioritized. LGBTQ women need to be prioritized. Native women, poor women, and disabled women need to be prioritized. Women who don't have pussies for Trump to grab need to be prioritized.
it seems like the lesson to take from police presence yesterday is that more white women should attend smaller rallies and protests— deaux (@dstfelix) January 22, 2017